Human Rights Council Advisory Committee
7 August 2009
The Human Rights Council Advisory Committee this morning adopted five recommendations to the Human Rights Council on draft principles and guidelines in the formulation and implementation of policies and measures for persons affected by leprosy and their family members; on human rights education and training; on discrimination in the context of the right to food; on missing persons; and on the right of peoples to peace.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Committee concluded its consideration of its agenda and annual programme of work, including new priorities.
Among the recommendations adopted, the Advisory Committee submitted for the consideration of the Human Rights Council a draft set of principles and guidelines on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, as mandated by the Council in its resolution 8/13.
The Committee recommended that the Drafting Group on human rights education and training continue its consultations with all stakeholders regarding the preliminary text with a view to submitting a draft version of the declaration on human rights education and training to the Advisory Committee at its fourth session.
The Committee assigned the task of the preparation of the study on “Discrimination in the context of the Right to Food”, as mandated by the Council in its resolution 10/12, to the existing Drafting Group on the right to food.
The Advisory Committee recommended that the Human Rights Council request its Drafting Group to continue its work on a study on best practices in the matter of missing persons in situations of armed conflict as requested by the Council.
The Advisory Committee designated Mr. Miguel Alfonso Martinez to prepare an initial working paper on the need to initiate a study with the purpose to further clarify the content and scope of the right of peoples to peace; propose measures to raise awareness of the importance of realising this right; and suggest concrete actions to mobilise States, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations in the promotion of the right of peoples to peace.
Speaking on the agenda and annual programme of work, speakers said the right of peoples to peace was an important topic, especially in the light of the work of the Committee. Peace was the greatest expression of international law, both current and post-modern law. Unfortunately, in the twenty-first century, crises had developed with the rise of terrorism, asymmetric warfare and increase in wars. This was a challenge for jurors, to determine the nature of peace, and not just the peace of the strongest. There was a lot to do from a legislative and human rights perspective for the right to peace in general human rights. Taking up such an important project would make the Advisory Committee in a better position to be able to contribute from a human rights point of view to the peace and security debate.
Speaking this morning were Miguel Alfonso Martinez; Mona Zulficar; Emmanuel Decaux; José Antonio Bengoa Cabello; Wolfgang Stefan Heinz; Purificacion V. Quisumbing; Vladimir Kartashkin; Bernards Andrews Nyamwaya Mudho; Dheerujlall Seetulsingh; Shigeki Sakamoto; and Latif Huseynov.
Also speaking were Slovenia, Indian Council of South America, and Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru.
The next session of the Committee will be at 3 p.m., when it will continue to take action on remaining recommendations before concluding its session.
Agenda and Annual Programme of Work, including New Priorities
Miguel Alfonso Martinez, Advisory Committee Expert, said the right of peoples to peace was an important topic, especially in the light of the work of the Committee. Peace was a condition that did not mean only the absence of armed conflict, but there was always a danger in peace. Peace was the greatest expression of international law, both current and post-modern law. The Charter of the United Nations was still in force, even though it was a work of the contemporaneous world, and this was now a post-modern world. Peace, both contemporaneous and post-modern was a vital element in the development of relations and the maintenance of human life on the planet, which was becoming smaller every day. This was a world of plurality in both economic and socio-political life, and would not become homogenous - it was becoming more diverse every day, with effects on international relations, strengthening the elements under which the world was multilingual and multicultural. Peace through cooperation among all the diverse parts of the non-homogenous world was required. Because of this, the Human Rights Council had understood the need to highlight the link between peace and the exercise, protection and promotion of human rights. The Committee had to examine to what extent this right existed and find a definition for it if such a definition did not exist. There were obstacles making it very difficult for peace to reign.
MONA ZULFICAR Advisory Committee Expert, said she welcomed the proposals made for new priorities. In particular, she supported the proposal made by Mr. Martinez, it was an important issue that deserved to be given due focus and study, it was timely, and there was a lot to do from a legislative and human rights perspective for the right to peace in general human rights. There was a need for it.
Emmanuel Decaux, Advisory Committee Expert, said he supported the proposal of Mr. Martinez. When the Council asked the Committee to consider the international order, the subject was much too broad, but there was a good guideline in the United Nations Charter, the aspiration of peoples to peace. Since then, the concept had been elaborated, by Boutros Boutros Ghali, among others. Unfortunately, in the twenty-first century, crises had developed with the rise of terrorism, asymmetric warfare and increase in wars. This was a challenge for jurors, to determine the nature of peace, and not just the peace of the strongest. If the Committee could come together to find a way forward, this would be a positive step.
JOSE ANTONIO BENGOA CABELLO, Advisory Committee Expert, said this was a non-statement, but since they were discussing this topic, he expressed a major concern with regard to the fact that yesterday the world commemorated Hiroshima and today Atoka Nagasaki, and asked the Committee Experts to do a bit of thinking on this. During his years on the Sub-Commission he had submitted a draft resolution on nuclear tests in the South Pacific. There was a lot of talk on this, some agreed that it was related to human rights, while other members did not; thus the topic was put to a vote and very few of them voted in favour of the resolution and thus the resolution fell. He said a few weeks ago he received a documentary video, probably by someone who was aware of this draft resolution, as the video was about such tests, children without arms, people with enormous wounds in their skin, quite horrid pictures, and their friend Joshua Cooper a professor from Hawaii sent him enormous material on such a matter. This was a situation dealing with tremendous human rights violations, and he wondered if there was a body responsible for dealing with it. He wanted to flag this issue and have members take this into account. If the Human Rights Council felt it should deal with it, then it should. Furthermore, there was a question of reparations and compensation, which should be the object of a study. He hoped that members would pass this message onto their respective permanent missions.
Wolfgang Stefan Heinz, Advisory Committee Expert, said he supported work on peace and human rights - it was important in light of the general view that there was a certain bifurcation between peace and security and human rights themselves. There had been progress over last years in that regard, and more and more the Security Council was referring to human rights. However, human rights people felt that they were not qualified to talk about peace, and needed a clearer vision thereof. Taking up such an important project would make the Advisory Committee in a better position to be able to contribute from a human rights point of view to the peace and security debate. This would then allow it to develop a specific smaller project, such as with the right to food, and define what was wished for in terms of human rights and peace, so that the contribution to the debate was more specific.
Purificacion V. Quisumbing, Advisory Committee Vice-Chairperson, said she supported the two proposals for the Committee to study. She continued to support the recommendation. With regards to the proposal on the human rights of elderly people, the introduction of Ms. Chung was very clear - there were a growing number of elderly persons in the world, and there was growing discrimination on the basis of age. All over Asia, this was true, and the kinds of institutions that were publicly supported to take care of the rights of elderly people did not exist. If both studies were recommended, then the Committee should make sure that it contributed uniquely to the debate. She supported both recommendations.
VLADIMIR KARTASHKIN, Advisory Committee Expert, said he also supported the proposals made by Ms. Chung and Mr. Martinez. He said on another note the annual programme of work did not fully reflect the volume of work they would be doing during the next session. In this programme they should repeat the questions they considered during this session, such as human rights in education and training, the right to food, and missing persons, which would be discussed throughout the year, in addition to the new priorities identified. This was important because it would show everyone that the volume of the work of the Advisory Committee was increasing with every passing year, and thus the document should show the dynamics of their work, including the new initiatives for the upcoming sessions. This was an important step for the future of the Committee, as well as for the implementation of the rules of procedure as adopted by the Committee.
Miguel Alfonso Martinez, Advisory Committee Expert, said he wished to say a few words on this issue. He was extremely grateful to the authors of the text contained in resolution L.4, and wished to tell them so. All of the comments made on the proposal would be taken into account if the Working Document was written. This was not just a matter of dealing with disarmament, but nuclear disarmament would eliminate one of the major obstacles preventing the peoples of the world from enjoying the right to peace. The need for peace was very motivating - war was always a threat to the right to security and integrity of the person. It was not possible to use force without keeping in mind the basic rights of the human being: the right to continue living and the basic right to security. This would be a general study, not focused on individual facets of the right, nor compensation to be given. That would be one of the jobs of the Human Rights Council, which had the job of taking these issues into account from the point of view of law in general. An element of discussion in the report could be that the Security Council had nothing to do with human rights. Within the jurisdiction and confidence of the Security Council, aside from issues already dealt with such as Haiti and Cambodia, in line with the Charter, it had nothing to do with human rights. He wished to force a debate on this matter.
BERNARDS ANDREWS NYAMWAYA MUDHO, Advisory Committee Expert, said he fully endorsed and supported the two proposals made. He agreed with Mr. Heinz and stressed that the Committee should focus on these two initiatives. He hoped that Mr. Martinez would make good use of his past experiences and expertise in this regard, and said he was at the disposal of the Committee in this regard. He too wanted his name to be included as a co-sponsor of these two initiatives.
Dheerujlall Seetulsingh, Advisory Committee Expert, said he also supported the two initiatives and proposals. In the light of what Mr. Martinez and Mr. Heinz had said on the role of the General Assembly and the Security Council, he was wondering whether it should not be called "promotion of the human right of peoples to peace" so that it had no political implication, or when it was referred to the Human Rights Council, some people may say that it was the concern of the General Assembly or the Security Council to look after peace, whereas the Advisory Committee should be more concerned with the human rights aspect.
SHIGEKI SAKAMOTO, Advisory Committee Expert, said, as a descendent of the silent victims of Nagasaki, and given that 50 years ago his grandfather was killed by the atomic bomb, in which his mother and father were seriously affected, he therefore supported this proposal and as such added his name to the list of co-sponsors for this study.
BOSTJAN JERMAN (Slovenia) said today's discussion on the agenda was welcome. In past decades, much had been done and achieved on the way towards the full realisation of equal rights of women and men as enshrined in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other core international human rights documents. Nevertheless, much still had to be done to reach the common goal of equal rights. Full and complete realisation of the human rights of women and girls was an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, and was essential for the advancement of development, peace and security. Slovenia supported the initiative to establish a special mechanism on equality before the law. Such an instrument would help diminish the gender-based inequalities in legislation, and would constitute a step forward in reducing the gap between the rights of women and men in law. The constant inclusion of the issue of the rights of persons with disabilities on the agenda of the Advisory Committee was welcome. Mainstreaming the rights of persons with disabilities was key to implement the provisions enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Mainstreaming would ensure the correct referring to persons with disabilities according to the paradigm shift by the new Convention in the approach to the rights of persons with disabilities.
IRENE WATSON, of the Indian Council of South America, said the relationship of indigenous peoples to land was of critical importance, and this was particularly in regard to climate change and the current global economic meltdown. Both climate change and current global economic conditions were placing indigenous peoples across the globe under even greater pressure to both live and survive against the ongoing impact of a historical and continuing colonialism. The position of indigenous peoples and their relationship to the land required ongoing monitoring. The capacity for indigenous peoples to bring complaints to the UN Human Rights Council for their ongoing observance was both necessary and critical to the human rights mandate. The pressure to assimilate indigenous peoples was an ongoing agenda of States and the need for the Human Rights Council to monitor these developments remained of critical concern. While the current focus on single issues as education, health and housing were of critical concern, they were however concerns which could not be examined in isolation of the fact that indigenous relationships to the land were what underlined the overall wellbeing as peoples. Without the land indigenous peoples become ‘empty shells of humanity’.
LAZARO PARY, of Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru, said it should be remembered that the main objective of the United Nations was and continued to be the maintenance of peace and security throughout the world. How could they guarantee this to peoples who were suffering? Today, the great challenge throughout the history of the United Nations and for humanity was and had been the complete and total elimination of nuclear arms and weapons of mass destruction. Thirty non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations had signed a letter to the Chair of the Human Rights Council, but the main powers, the Western nations, had rejected the issue. There would be no peace, no development, no right to development, to life, to the environment, if the Western powers did not have the political will to eliminate their nuclear weapons, which were a threat to humanity. The Security Council did not have specific competence to look at the case of human rights. The Security Council had always made declarations and resolutions against countries - Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. There was an incompatibility here. If the United Nations and the Security Council had a specific mandate to maintain international peace and security, it had nonetheless acted contrary to this, such as with economic sanctions against the Iraqi people. Leprosy was not an issue for the Advisory Committee, it was one for the World Health Organization, and the Committee could not make suggestions remedying it, or curing it, or finding medicines for the affected.
SHARON VENNE, of the Indian Council of South America, said this body may not be aware of the fact that the previous bodies of the human rights system had begun many important projects related to the rights of indigenous peoples. One of these projects was approval of a UN sponsored Seminar on the Implementation of the Treaty Study. This historic seminar took place in December 2006. It was historic because it took place at Maskawacis Cree Territory in the western part of Canada. For the first time, hundreds of indigenous peoples from their territories were able to come and observe a UN sponsored seminar on an issue that directly affected them. These treaties concluded with the Crown in right of Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland and Wales were international agreements. They formed the legal basis for the establishment of the State of Canada. As the UN system started with its reorganization of work and priorities, the report with its recommendations and conclusions could not be found in any of the existing bodies dealing with indigenous peoples. She asked the Committee if it was possible to take up the work of the Seminar held in 2006? Further, she requested that this issue be considered and some guidance provided on what to do with a report that had no home.
Action on Recommendations to the Human Rights Council
In a draft recommendation entitled Draft principles and guidelines on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, contained in (A/HRC/AC/3/L.1), the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee endorses the draft set of principles and guidelines contained in the annex to the present recommendation, as revised; submits the annexed draft set of principles and guidelines to the twelfth session of the Human Rights Council for its consideration; recommends to the Human Rights Council that it request all relevant United Nations bodies, special agencies and programmes, as well as Member States to give due consideration to the principles and guidelines in the formulation and implementation of their policies and measures for persons affected by leprosy and their family members; and should request all actors in society, including hospitals, schools, universities, religious groups and organizations, business companies, newspapers and broadcasting networks and non-governmental organizations, to give due consideration to the principles and guidelines in the course of their activities for the realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons affected by leprosy and their family members.
The annex to the draft principles and guidelines on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, contained in (A/HRC/AC/3/L.1), notes that in formulating a draft set of principles and guidelines on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, the Rapporteur enumerates human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons affected by leprosy and their family members as principles in the first place, and enumerates guidelines for States to respect, ensure and achieve such rights and freedoms in the second place.
Shigeki Sakamoto, Advisory Committee Expert, introducing the resolution on draft principles and guidelines on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, contained in (A/HRC/AC/3/L.1) and its annex, said the main revised point was the incorporation of paragraphs 2 and 3 in the principles. He then read the changes that had been incorporated into the text of the annex.
In a recommendation entitled Drafting Group on Human Rights Education and Training, contained in (A/HRC/AC/3/L.2), adopted unanimously, as orally amended, the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee recommends that the Drafting Group continue its consultations with all stakeholders regarding the preliminary text with a view to submitting a draft version of the declaration to the Advisory Committee at its fourth session; and encourages the various stakeholders to continue their efforts to enrich the collective debate concerning the work under way.
EMMANUEL DECAUX, Advisory Committee Expert, introducing the draft recommendation of the Working Group on human rights education and training L.2, said this draft recommendation highlighted contributions made through the questionnaire by all stakeholders, and thanked them for their participation. It also noted the initiatives and importance of the Marrakech seminar, as well as the importance to encourage national human rights institutions and other stakeholders to continue to engage in the process. Moreover, the draft stipulated that the drafting group was to finish its work before the next and fourth session of the Committee, and stressed that this was a transitional document.
In a recommendation entitled Study on “Discrimination in the context of the Right to Food”, contained in (A/HRC/AC/3/L.3), adopted unanimously as orally amended, the Human Rights Advisory Committee assigned the task of the preparation of the study on “Discrimination in the context of the Right to Food”, as mandated by the Council in its resolution 10/12, to the existing Drafting Group on the right to food.
Mona Zulficar, Advisory Committee Expert, introducing the Study on “Discrimination in the context of the Right to Food”, contained in (A/HRC/AC/3/L.3), read proposed changes to the text.
In a recommendation on Missing persons (A/HRC/AC/3/L.6), adopted unanimously, the Advisory Committee recommends that the Human Rights Council request its Drafting Group to continue its work on a study on best practices in the matter of missing persons in situations of armed conflict as requested by the Council; request the Drafting Group to submit the results of its work on the study to the Advisory Committee at its fourth session with a view to submitting them to the Council at its fourteenth session; and recommend that the Human Rights Council consider adopting the following decision: “The Human Rights Council takes note of the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on the progress of work on missing persons and encourages the Committee to pursue this collective undertaking with a view to finalizing the study on the best practices in the matter of missing persons, and requests the Advisory Committee to submit the study to the Council at its fourteenth session”.
WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, Advisory Committee Expert, introducing draft recommendation L.6 on missing persons, said the draft requested that the drafting group on missing persons come back to this issue in the general meeting, due to the complexity of the issue and timeframe, among other things mentioned. The draft also requested the Council to take this into account and the drafting group would submit to the Council a draft paper to its next session.
In a recommendation on Promotion of the right of peoples to peace (A/HRC/AC/3/L.4), adopted by consensus as orally amended, the Advisory Committee designated Mr. Miguel Alfonso Martinez to prepare an initial working paper on the need to initiate a study with the purpose, inter alia to: further clarify the content and scope of this right; propose measures to raise awareness of the importance of realising this right; and suggest concrete actions to mobilise States, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations in the promotion of the right of peoples to peace; to be submitted to the consideration of the Advisory Committee not later than its fifth session.
Mona Zulficar, Advisory Committee Expert, introducing the recommendation on promotion of the right of peoples to peace, (A/HRC/AC/3/L.4) said the text asked Mr. Miguel Alfonso Martinez to prepare an initial working paper on the need to initiate a study with the purpose of further clarifying the content and scope of this right and propose measures to raise awareness of the importance of realising this right at the fifth session.
MONA ZULFICAR, Advisory Committee Expert, speaking on draft recommendation L.4 on the right of people to peace, said getting a clearer, more solid and assertive framework in the area of human rights law was part of the objective of having the study. This was an initial working paper which would identify the need for a study to be conducted. This working paper was a first step in helping the Advisory Committee make a decision and recommend to the Human Rights Council to conduct a study. The objective proposed by the Committee was to clarify the scope, to raise awareness, how to assert this right, and to suggest concrete actions, and to come up with proposals on how to move from theoretical human rights to reality on the ground - moving from theory to practice. She further stressed that they proposed to have an initial working paper on whether to conduct a study or not, and what was the situation right now in the literature and instruments issued to propose whether they needed a study, and whether or not they should cover the items proposed. During the fifth session of the Committee, Experts would then decide if the Committee was to recommend to the Human Rights Council to conduct this study.
Miguel Alfonso Martinez, Advisory Committee Expert, said the Council in its wisdom set points a., b. and c. as they were in the text of the co-sponsors so that the topic was studied just as it wished, and had accepted that the profile of the study was still being defined along the lines as just explained by Ms. Zulficar. It was a matter of indicating to the person preparing the working paper that account should be taken of what was going to take place in a particular meeting.
Wolfgang Stefan Heinz, Advisory Committee Expert, said the title should be something like "human rights and the promotion of the right of peoples to peace".
Dheerujlall Seetulsingh, Advisory Committee Expert, said he agreed with this suggestion, but wished to sound a note of caution - there was a spirit of mainstreaming here. He did not wish the Committee to go to the Human Rights Council and have its request turned down. With regards to human rights and gender mainstreaming, the Council had turned this down for some reason he was not clear on. If the Committee were to be quite clear that it only wanted to study the rights of people to peace and human rights, then maybe there would be a more sympathetic consideration at the level of the Human Rights Council of this recommendation.
Purificacion V. Quisumbing, Advisory Committee Vice-Chairperson, said the draft recommendation was very clear, and what the Committee intended to do when designating Mr. Alfonso Martinez to prepare an initial working paper on the need to initiate; it was not even saying that it was going to study the issue. The Committee was not going beyond its mandate in this regard. It was however debating something it also debated in its study on human rights and training - the question of definition. Was there a human right to human rights education? There was a human right to education and this should be related to the right to a human rights education. The Committee had to remember that the right to peace underlay everything that had to do with the right to security of persons.
MONA ZULFICAR, Advisory Committee Expert, said she wanted to confirm that they accepted the drafting changes proposed by the Rapporteur, and had no problem with the change in titles and deleting the dates. This study should recognize the right to peace as a means to an end. Part of this initiative was to push towards a clear recognition of the right of peoples to peace.
Miguel Alfonso Martinez, Advisory Committee Expert, said he agreed with the addition of human rights in the title.
Latif Huseynov, Advisory Committee Rapporteur, said he would stick to the collective decision to be taken on this particular issue. It was superfluous, however, as there was a Human Rights Council resolution on the promotion of the right of peoples to peace. It was clear that the Committee was dealing with human rights. By having this title, the Committee did not and could not go beyond the work determined by the Council. By adding human rights to almost any idea or concept, this element or concept was not necessarily brought into the sphere of human rights. From the legal point of view, this change was also irrelevant and a tautology.
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